Daniel David Palmer

The first Chiropractic success was curing...deafness!

Harvey Lillard, janitor of the Ryan Building in Brady Street, Davenport, Iowa USA, was not a happy man. 17 years before, while working in a cramped, stooping position, he had felt something give way in his spine. The immediate result was not only pain...he found he had lost his hearing.

He mentioned his problem to Daniel David Palmer, who had an office in the Ryan Building and was a keen student of anatomy and physiology. Daniel Palmer had a theory. He surmised that the spine was the highway along which ran the central nervous system. If that highway should become in need of repair and in any way restrict the constant traffic of brain impulses and orders carried by the central nervous system, other symptoms seemingly unconnected to the spinal column could result.

He examined Harvey Lillard and found that one of his vertebrae was misaligned. On September 18th 1895, he gave Harvey Lillard the first ever Chiropractic adjustment. Harvey's hearing returned...and Chiropractic was born.


The years of struggle

Daniel Palmer was not the first pioneer to find the established medical world ranged against him. In 1845, the American dentist Wells first used nitrous oxide (laughing gas) to quell the pain of dentistry. He, and the later exponents of anaesthetics such as chloroform and ether, met sometimes violent opposition. In Vienna Semmelweis's insistence on hygiene at childbirth was ridiculed in 1847, in spite of the fact that it reduced maternal mortality from 9.9% to 1.5%. Twenty years later, Lister used carbolic acid and phenol sprays to reduce the risk of infection during surgery. Surgeons who operated in swallow tail suits and prided themselves on the bloodiness of their aprons, derided Lister, too. So Daniel Palmer was in very good company. But he persevered and opened the first school of Chiropractic in 1898. In spite of opposition from medical profession, five of the first 15 graduates were medical doctors. It's also worth noting that half the pupils were women, a tradition that is still maintained today in most Chiropractic schools. Daniel Palmer lived to see dozens of Chiropractic schools open up across America. He died in 1913, his death possibly contributed to by an injury he sustained whilst serving his jail sentence. His statement after receiving his sentence is perhaps his epitaph , too:

"I have never considered it beneath my dignity to do anything to relieve human suffering."

The struggle went on. Many other Chiropractors were prosecuted and jailed. A landmark case was when Shegato Morikubo DC, a graduate of Palmer's school, was found innocent of practising medicine without a licence. The judge decided that he was not practising medicine...he was practising Chiropractic. This was the first recognition of Chiropractic as a science in its own right.


The years of progress

In spite of opposition, the march of Chiropractic went on unchecked. Palmer's mantle was taken on by his son, B J Palmer, who refined the techniques and took over the school. He also introduced into Chiropractic the new tool of X-Rays, enabling more accurate diagnoses of spinal misalignments.

In America, where Chiropractic was born and first flourished, milestone followed milestone.

1913: Kansas was the first state to licence Chiropractors.

1941: The first standards were set up to accredit Chiropractic schools in the USA.

1944: The GI Bill of Rights made grants available for returning veterans to study Chiropractic.

1972: The US Congress voted to make Chiropractic available under Medicare.

Today in America there are around 50,000 practising Chiropractors treating 15-20 million patients. One in 15 Americans sees a Chiropractor at least once a year.

Chiropractic has come a long way from that day in 1895 when Harvey Lillard complained to Daniel Palmer about his deafness.


Jeff Shurr